Some of us rush into the increasing rents/decreasing arts spaces debate with our gloves on; others wander into it unwittingly. Case in point: filmmaker Chip Lord. A year ago, he finished his latest work, Awakening From the 20th Century, and decided to screen it at New Langton Arts along with other films that examine the nature of San Francisco as a city. Now the showcase he curated has evolved into the centerpiece of a two-day symposium aspiring toward, according to press materials, "proposing pragmatic solutions to the real estate squeeze."
"My ideas were more lyrical and philosophical," Lord said, groggy from a late-night return flight from Houston, where Awakening had just screened. "I wanted to use my film as a magnet for other work that uses San Francisco as an idea. But since we started talking about it things have heated up."
Lord's film will screen with four others Thursday night; a panel discussion with historical geographer Gary Brechin, media artist Michael Naimark, architect Adele Naude Santos, and art critic Rebecca Solnit follows on Friday. Since the shift in the event's intent, Lord has taken pains to select films he hopes introduce new issues. He's included Pushed Out for Profit, a 1979 film by Optic Nerve that documents Mission District renters coping with the real estate boom of the late '70s. His own Awakening asks an intriguing cross-section of dot-com workers "how they use San Francisco." "My strategy is to ask simple questions but then open up and complicate the answers," Lord said.
And he's hoping the films he screens Thursday prompt really complicated answers. "My utopian goal is to talk about what the ideal kind of city to live in would be rather than the practicalities of what's going on out there," Lord said. "I'm sure in the discussion we'll get some of both."